Interviewer: We're now in Stockholm with Bob Dylan and I wonder now when you're in Stockholm if you could explain a bit more about yourself and your kind of songs. What d'you think of the kind of protest song tag?
Dylan: I don't ... uh ... my ... oh God. No. (Laughs) No. I'm not ... I'm not gonna sit here and and do that. I've uh, you know, I've been up all night, I've taken some pills, I've eaten bad food and I've read about wrong things and I've been out for a hundred miles an hour car ride and, uh, I'm just not gonna sit here and talk about myself as a protest singer or anything like that.
I: So, but the first things you did, I mean which got really famous on singles and things like that - for example in England they released 'The Times They Are A-Changin' - that was supposed to be a protest song - no?
Dylan: Oh, my God! How long ago was that?
I: A year ago.
Dylan: Yeah, well I mean, come on, a year ago! I'm not trying to be a bad fellow or anything, but I just, you know, I'd just be a liar or a fool to go on with all this, all this business. I just can't help it if you're a year behind you know.
I: No, but that's the style - that's the style you had then and then suddenly you changed to 'Subterranean Homesick Blues', the electric guitar and those things. Is there a special reason, I mean the way you would tell about it yourself.
I: What would you call yourself, a poet or a singer, or do you think that you write poems and then you put music to it?
Dylan: No ... I don't know ... It's so silly! I mean you can't ... You wouldn't ask those questions of a carpenter, would you? Or a plumber?
I: It would not interesting in the same way, would it?
Dylan: I guess it would be. I mean if it's interesting to me, it should be just as interesting to you.
I: Well, not as being a disc-jockey anyhow.
Dylan: What do you think Mozart would say to you if you ever come up to him and ask him the questions that you've been asking? What kind of questions would you ask him, you know, 'Tell me, Mr Mozart ...'
I: Well, first of all I wouldn't do it.
Dylan: Well, how come you do it to me?
I: Well, because I'm interested in your records and I think the Swedish audiences are as well.
Dylan: Well, I'm interested in the Swedish audiences too, Swedish people and all that kind of stuff, but I'm sure they don't wanna know all these dumb things, you know.
I: No, well they've read a lot of dumb things about you in the papers I suppose, but I thought you could straighten them out yourself.
Dylan: I can't straighten them out. I don't think they have to be straightened out. I know ... I believe that they know. They know. Don't you know the Swedish people? I mean, they don't have to be told, they don't have to be explained to, I mean, you should know that. I mean Swedish people just don't have to be explained to. You can't tell Swedish people something which is self-explanatory. Swedish people are smarter than that.
I: Do you think so?
Dylan: Oh, oh of course.
I: Do you know any Swedes?
Dylan: I know plenty. I happen to be a Swede myself.
I: Oh yeah, certainly.
Dylan: I happen to come from not too far from here, my friend.
I: Should we try to listen to a song instead?
Dylan: We can try.
I: Yeah? Which one would you suggest then?
Dylan: Uh, you pick one out, any one you say. You realize I'm not trying to be a bad fellow, I'm just trying to make it along and have a nice ... get everything to be straight, you realize that?
I: Yeah, and that's why I asked you, and you had a chance to do it yourself.
Dylan: I don't want to do it myself.
Dylan: I don't wanna do anything by myself ... for what?
I: Or against what?
Dylan: Well, you know what it's against and what it's for. I don't need to tell you you that. It's for, you know, it's for .... well, it's for ... well you know my songs are all mathematical songs. You know what that means so I'm not gonna have to go into that specifically here. It happens to be a protest song ... and it borders on the mathematical, you know, idea of things, and this one specifically happens to deal with a minority of, you know, cripples and orientals, and, uh, you know, and the world in which they live, you realize, you know, you understand, you know. It's sort of a North Mexican kind of a thing, uh, very protesty. Very very protesty. And, uh, one of the protestiest of all things I ever protested against in my protest years. But uh...
I: D'you really believe it?
Dylan: Do I believe it?
Dylan: I don't have to believe it, I know it, I wrote it! I mean, I'm telling you I wrote it! I should know!
I: Yeah. Why that title? It's never mentioned in the song.
Dylan: Well, we never mention things that we love. And that's - where I come from that is ... that's blasphemy. Blas-per-for-me, you know that word? Blas-per-for-me?
Dylan: It has to do with God.
I: Shall we have a listen to the song?
I: Which is selling quite well in the States. Hoe do you feel about that?
Dylan: It's ... it's ... horrible.
I: It is?
Dylan: Yeah, I don't wanna, uh ... because it's a protest song. A protest song really, shouldn't really really listen to protest songs.
I: Well, I see it in the way that a lot of people buy the record to listen to it, these radio stations and so on. So a lot of people could get the message in that case.
Dylan: Yeah. They do get the message. I'm glad they're getting the message. That was a good record too, huh?
I: How do you feel about earning a lot of money then, if you're not really concerned about it all?
Dylan: I like earning a lot of money.
I: From the start you didn't have much, but now you got a lot. What do you do with it?
I: Not concerned?
Dylan: No. I don't really ... Somebody else handles it for me, you know. I just do the same old things.
I: When you write a song, do you write the melody or the words first?
Dylan: Uh, I write it all, you know. I write it all, the melody and the words.
I: At the same time?
Dylan: Yeah. The melody is sort of unimportant really. It comes natural you know.
I: The very start, other artists used your songs and recorded them and got hits and things like that. How do you feel about that?
Dylan: Well, I didn't feel anything really. I felt happy, you know.
I: Do you like to suddenly get famous then, first as a songwriter, and then also as a singer?
Dylan: Uh, yeah, it's sort of all over though, you know? I don't have any interest any more. I did have interest when I was 13, 14, 15 to be a famous star and all that kind of stuff, but, I been playing, you know, on the stage, following tent shows around ever since I've been 10, 10 years old. That's been 15 years I've been doing what I've been doing. I mean, I know I'm doing better than anybody else does.
I: And nowadays, what is it you want to to?
I: Do you enjoy traveling? Performing?
Dylan: Yeah, I like performing. I don't care to travel though.
I: What about recordings?
Dylan: I like to record.
I: You got a group now, which I suppose you didn't have at the very start.
Dylan: Yes, I had a group at the very start. You must realize I come from the United States, you know. I don't know if you know the United States. It's not like England at all. The people at my age now you know, 25, 26, at this age, everybody's grown up, you know, playing rock'n'roll music.
I: You did it?
Dylan: Yes, I mean, cause it's the only kind of music you heard. I mean everybody has done it, cause all you heard was rock'n'roll and country and western and rhythm and blues music. Now at a certain time the whole field got taken over into, into some milk, you know - into Frankie Avalon, Fabian and this kind of thong. That's not bad or anything, but it was just ... there was nobody really, that you could look at, and to really want anything that they had or wanna be like them, you know? So everybody got out of it. An d I remember when everybody got out of it. But nobody really lost that whole thing. And then folk music came in as some kind of substitute for a while, but it was only a substitute don't you understand? And that's all it was. Now it's different again, because of the English thing. The English thing ... what the English thing did was, they proved that you could make money, you know, at playing the same old kind of music that you used to play, and that's the truth. You know, that's not a lie. It's not a come on or anything. But, uh, you know the English people can't play rock'n'roll music.
I: How do you feel about the Beatles then?
Dylan: Oh, the Beatles are great, but they don't play rock'n'roll.
I: You met them quite a few times, as well in the States and in England.
Dylan: Yeah, I know the Beatles, they're not playing ...
I: You don't think they play rock'n'roll anyhow?
Dylan: No, they don't play rock'n'roll. They're more like .... Rock'n'roll is just for ... is an extension of 12-bar blues. And it's a white, you know, white 17-year-old kid music. And it'd kid music, that's all it is. That's what rock'n'roll is. Rock'n'roll is a fake, uh, fake kind of attempt at sex, you know.
I: But what would you call your style then?. The music you sing?
Dylan: I don't know. I've never heard anybody that plays or sings like me, so I don't ...
I: There's no name for it that you would try to put on it yourself?
Dylan: Mathematical music.
I: Yeah? OK, If you would like to choose a last final song for this interview?
Dylan: You choose it.
I: There's none in particular that you would like more than another one?
Dylan: No. Well, I'd rather have you play, you know, Tombstone Blues than Pretty Peggy-O! But, other than that I wish you'd make your own choice.
I: OK. Thanks a lot then.
Interview for Swedish radio by Klas Burling May 28, 1966.
The poor Mr Burling who obviously wasn't very familiar with Bob Dylan's career and didn't know much more than the names of the more famous songs, was out to do the standard friendly Cliff Richard type of pop star interview, didn't have any idea what was going to happen to him.
Klas Burling was the first radio disc jockey in Sweden and I especially remembered when he introduced the Beatles' first single Love Me Do with the words "I wouldn't be surprised if we get to hear more from these four lads in the future ...". So he was by no means ignorant of the pop music scene at the time.
I also think you have to give Klas Burling credits for standing distance and carrying the interview through all the way. Note also Dylan's usual interview trick: countering with questions, thus having the interviewer giving the answers, this if often done by simply repeating the question.
Favorite quote: "
"... well you know my songs are all mathematical songs. You know what that means so I'm not gonna have to go into that specifically here."
No of course not.